My thoughts on the government "stimulus" package

When asked if increasing government spending or reducing taxes on business would best get the country out of the current recession, people responding to a recent CBS News poll answered as follows:
59% favored reducing taxes
22% favored increasing spending.

A similar question mentioned taxes in general rather than business-specific tax breaks. In response to this:
62% favor tax cuts
16% favor increased spending.

When asked if the bill currently being negotiated in congress will shorten the recession:
45% said that it would not shorten the recession,
39% think it would shorten the recession.

81% think that bipartisan support is important
13% feel it is not

During the election campaign, Obama frequently cited McCain's voting record that showed agreement with Bush 90% of the time. Obama used this to claim that McCain represented “more of the same” while he represented “change.” For months leading up to the election I continually posted in blogs that “change” is not the same as “improvement.” I made the point that Obama voted with Pelosi 97% of the time, and the Pelosi-fronted congress had approval ratings even more dismal than those of Bush. I warned that the change that Obama wanted to bring could very well be a change from bad to worse.

There is potential for this to happen with the current stimulus bill. A large portion of this $900-billion bill will be spent on projects - such as water parks, global warming research, STD prevention, national arts programs and so on - that will do nothing to get the economy going and will at the same time increase taxpayer burden. The CBS poll I referenced is just one of many that indicate a majority of Americans think big government spending will not shorten the recession. However, we elected the candidate who approached every problem with a big government solution instead of McCain, who advocated tax cuts and had a record of halting wasteful spending.

Obama continues to justify his plan by pointing out that the Bush policy didn't work and we need to do something different. However, just because it's different, that doesn't necessarily make it better. Any stimulus package simply must have bipartisan support to help avoid making a bad situation worse. Up until recently Obama has been stressing the importance of support from both parties, but in recent days his tone has changed from that of cooperation to creating a sense of urgency. Whenever this happens, we need to remember one of the major lessons of the Iraq war. Bush created the impression that another 9/11 was just around the corner unless we took preemptive action. Perhaps if we had taken more time to begin such action, the false nature of the WMD intelligence would have been known and we could have avoided a terrible national PR mistake. This week, Obama said that “the situation could not be more serious,” and unless the stimulus bill is passed quickly, the nation will sink deeper into a crisis that “we may not be able to reverse.” If this is such an urgent crisis, then why does the proposed plan delay spending of 80% of the funds until 2010 and beyond?

We need to keep some perspective on this. The economy is in bad shape, but Obama's recent talks have created the impression that the situation is more dire than it really is. The economy was far worse at the end of the Carter administration than it is now, and I hope that a more levelheaded tone will prevail today. Now is not the time for passing the democrats' spending wish list under the guise of emergency stimulus. Now is the time for reasonable, responsible, and *measured* action. The bill in its current form lacks republican support because they feel it contains far too much unnecessary spending and far too little genuine economic stimulus. Based on these recent polls it seems that this is in agreement with the majority of the American people. Unfortunately, with Obama as President and democrats in control of congress, this is now the minority opinion in Washington, DC.